Meeting Performance Standards for Summer Sausage
In today’s market there is a desire for artesian food, or food that has been processed according to “old world” traditions. Historically, dried and fermented food was a staple product that was traditionally uncooked and fermented at low temperature. Due to current food safety regulations, processors are required to fully cook dried and fermented products containing beef. Research by UGA animal and dairy scientists is aimed at quantifying the reduction in Escherichia coli O157:H7 and STEC between current methods of production and low temperature processing similar to traditional products, with the use of high pressure processing (HPP) as an additional safety hurdle. The emergence of high-pressure processing technology and its use in meat processing have provided an alternate, non-thermal processing technology to achieve pathogen reduction with minimal impact on product quality. The goal is to evaluate the use of HPP subsequent to mild fermentation and lower than traditional thermal processing to augment the pathogen reductions achieved during fermentation and mild cooking and to meet USDA-FSIS performance standards.Processors using mild fermentation with a low degree of thermal processing currently operate under in-plant validations due a lack of scientific literature validating alternative procedures to achieve a 5D process. High pressure processing is currently being used to improve the microbiological safety of raw fruit juices, deli meats, and other high-water activity foods. However, there is little information on the efficacy of HPP when used in conjunction with fermentation and drying to reduce pathogen populations during production of low water activity processed beef sausage products. UGA results confirm that already validated processes for summer sausage manufacturing resulted in a 5D process. In addition, the use of high pressure processing can increase the margin of safety up to an 8D process. Furthermore, a total process using a milder fermentation and thermal processing that incorporates high pressure processing can meet the 5D reduction guidelines mandated for a beef summer sausage. The total process framework from this research can also be used to help ensure the safety of all-beef summer sausage products if a processing deviation occurs during fermentation or thermal processing.